Howe: Noah Fant Looking Out for Himself, And That’s OK

November 30, 2018

Written by Rob Howe

IOWA CITY, Iowa – There were be some folks who will criticize Noah Fant for skipping Iowa’s bowl game. We’re in a world of hot takes and victimization. People seek reasons to be offended and blame others for ruining their day. Social media makes it easy to gain an audience.

That’s life. And it’s not likely to change.

Fant, the first Iowa player to do it, knew he was opening himself up for the he’s-bailing-on-his-team crowd when he announced Friday that he would be leaving early for the NFL. I’d guess the all-Big Ten tight end didn’t pay it much attention.

He shouldn’t. He’s making a decision for he and his family. He’s doing so after literally giving up his body for three seasons to the University of Iowa. If he gets hurt in the bowl game, his critics won’t be starting a Go-Fund Me page to make up for his lost NFL wages. It’s a violent sport.

College football is big business. The universities make millions off the players. Coaches often are the highest paid employees in their states. Their offices are nicer than the governors’.

The players see that. And they’re the ones putting their bodies on the line and dedicating 12 months of the year to the program. Yes, they are treated well and get a free education, but it’s a relatively small piece of the pie.

Only a small percentage of these guys get a chance to play professionally. If you’re in that group, you protect your asset, which is a body that can only absorb so many hits.

As you would expect, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz showed some displeasure with Fant’s decision to skip the bowl. The dean of college coaches has expressed his feelings on it when other schools’ players have taken this path in the past.

“We are disappointed Noah will not be finishing the season with his teammates,” Ferentz said in an Iowa press release. “He is a tremendous athlete and we wish him the best as he pursues his goal of playing in the NFL.”

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That’s understandable. It’s probably better from a PR standpoint to leave out being disappointed in a young man pursuing his dream, but at least he’s being honest.

It also should be noted that it’s been a strained year between Fant, his family and the program. If you’re a Hawkeye fan that’s been living under a rock, here’s the story.

The Iowa coaches chose to limit Fant’s reps throughout the season because they felt it gave the team the best chance to win. While he never criticized the situation publicly, he wanted to play more.

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It’d be naive to think that the story line didn’t make it easier for Fant to step away before the bowl game. It’s human nature to feel marginalized when your coaches are saying they’re better off with you on the sideline.

While the Hawkeye staff felt it operated better with Fant out of the action, the NFL has been salivating over the Omaha product since his exploits at Iowa’s pro day in March. His 42.1-inch vertical leap would have ranked among the best ever at the NFL Draft Combine, regardless of position.

While mock drafts aren’t foolproof, they usually provide a reasonable guide. Fant is listed as a first-rounder and the top tight end in virtually all of them. He’ll help his cause in pre-draft workouts as well.

Scouts can go on more than the underwear olympics. Fant is Iowa’s all-time leader among tight ends with 19 receiving touchdowns. His seven this season pace the team and he’s second in receiving yards (519).

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The hope here is that Fant skipping the bowl game doesn’t further strain his relationship with the coaches. He’s a special player and, by all accounts, a good person. You want those people as ambassadors for program. Have him compete in your pro day.

Really, it’s a sign that Iowa is keeping up with the Joneses in college football. Fant is part of a trend that started a few years ago when guys like Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey bypassed their teams’ bowl games.

Standout Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver also announced Friday that he would be skipping the postseason contest. Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, the projected No. 1 overall pick, began preparing for the draft earlier this season despite there being a chance he could return from injury. He signed with an agent this week despite the Buckeyes being in position to make the College Football Playoff.

Like he has with the rise in underclassmen leaving earlier for the NFL, it’d be wise for Ferentz come to grips with players missing bowl games. Once the sting of Fant leaving wears off some, he probably will. He’s New Kirk.

These kids sacrifice their bodies so universities can build a lot of nice, shiny things and administrators can live very comfortably. When it comes time for them to cash it, let them go in peace and support them.

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